Changing the landscape of money transfers
Officially recorded remittance flows to developing countries are estimated to have reached $351 billion in 2011. The World Bank’s list of countries that received the most money from migrant remittances last year saw Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, placed seventh with an estimated $11 billion through official channels.
With those kinds of statistics, it’s no wonder that there is a tremendous opportunity to provide workers remittance services that provide an opportunity to earn revenue but also offer convenience and good value in the remittance sector. With a career working for J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, and HSBC, Steven Faulkner first learned of remittances when he became Chief Operating Officer of a division of UBA Bank in Nigeria. “With my experience in international payments and cash management and with the proliferation of the feature phone in Nigeria I knew I could change the money transfer landscape” he says.
The unique MTxpress model
Putting his ideas into practice, when he returned to the UK at the end of 2006, Faulkner co-founded Mobile Union with Nauzar Manekshaw in August 2007. “I set about designing the core system and finding the right technical partners – by coincidence Eagleeye’s Head of Technology Simon Collins had recently joined (Eagleeye Technology and Mobile Union’s technology partner) and who had previously been instrumental in the design of the M-Pesa service in Kenya during the early days of the project.
“A great collaboration between Collins and Faulkner resulted in “Mtxpress” an instant cashless remittance service from the UK to Bangladesh, Nepal and most recently, Nigeria.”
The Mtxpress service allows remittances to be sent from the UK to Nigeria both online and via mobile safely and instantly. As opposed to most other money transfer services, transactions are processed online by going to http://www.mtxpress.com/nigeria and money can either be collected in cash or credited to a bank account.
“The service is transformational in that you are not limited to the opening times of a local agent in either the send or receive country. At the destination, the recipient doesn’t have to make a special journey to collect funds or travel out in extreme conditions, such as a tropical storm to collect money. Both parties can send and receive funds in the comfort of their own home with the recipient cashing out if they need to at a time which suits them” says Faulkner.
“Unlike other services we operate a simple tariff structure, fixed transaction fee of between £1 and £6 for amounts between £100 and £1,000 with no hidden charges.
“We charge a modest commission on the foreign exchange of between 1 and 2 percent based on the prevailing official Interbank rate which means that our rates are completely transparent.”
Mobile Union Nigeria Limited is the only money transfer operator to have been given a full banking licence by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to conduct inward bound remittances into Nigeria. After starting out with the Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB), as a result of its merger with Sterling Bank MTxpress is now in 186 branches and every state in the country.
Safe and secure
Mobile Union ensures that the service is safe to conduct transactions online. “Through a combination of rigorous customer due diligence combined with state-of-the-art technology and military grade security we are able to ensure funds are delivered safely and securely,” says co-founder of Mobile Union (Nigeria) Ltd Winston Bell-Gam.
“What’s more, we can provide the sender with real-time transaction status updates providing peace of mind to the sender knowing that funds have been received in the destination.”
Sending remittances “on demand”
With the typical amount transferred to Nigeria around $200 according to Faulkner, he accepts that in order to generate mass interest in MTxpress there needs to be a shift in culture that he believes the service can bring about.
“Our service satisfies one of the major hang-ups with money transfer operations in that you have to send higher amounts to make the transaction cost effective. What we have built enables even the smallest remittances to be sent on demand”.
The success and widespread adoption of mobile money in Kenya, where services such as M-Pesa and Orange Money have transformed financial services in the country, has set the tone for African countries like Nigeria and Southern Sudan to follow, Faulkner and Bell-Gam agree.
“Four of five adults now have a mobile money account of some description in Kenya. With the 10 licenses that the CBN has recently granted (with others to follow) our next step will be partnering with those wallet providers to be able to credit remittances on to mobile wallets in Nigeria and removing even the need to go and cash out,” comments Faulkner.
Until this is achieved Mobile Union (Nigeria) Ltd is finalising its test plans to enable remittances to be credited to bank accounts in Nigeria.
“We look forward to playing our part in the emergence of a fully inclusive financial sector in Nigeria for whom the use of mobile financial services will become a useful tool to assist in making everyday life easier for millions of people,” says Bell-Gam.
“What’s happened in Kenya over the last 4 or 5 years and the impact of financial services has not been lost on us.”
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